LONDON (Reuters) - Widows of two of the 11 Israelis killed at the Munich Olympics in 1972 lambasted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its president at a London commemoration on Monday.
The two, Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, representing family members of the athletes, coaches and officials who were killed, say they have tried for four decades to persuade the IOC to organize an official commemoration.
They vowed to continue their efforts get their wish at future Games.
Senior international figures including U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have called for a tribute to the 11 men who were killed in a standoff in Munich with Palestinian gunmen. A German policeman was also killed.
Monday’s commemoration was hosted by Israel’s Olympic Committee at London’s impressive Guildhall, with International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, top British politicians, Israel’s sports minister and Germany’s foreign minister present.
Israel has organized a commemorative event since the Sydney Games in 2000 and Rogge has participated as IOC president since the Athens Olympics four years later, but the two widows said it should be the IOC that organizes the ceremony, not Israel.
Lamenting what she said was Rogge’s refusal to hold the minute’s silence, Spitzer said the “call was heard all over the world, (and) only the International Olympic Committee remains deaf and blind.”
“They were killed on Olympic soil and the appropriate place to remember them is at the opening ceremony,” Romano said in her speech to the hundreds of invited guests, who stood for a minute of silence.
Rogge said everybody remembered the “horrific events of 1972” even if they had not yet been born, and he described the killings as “the worst days of the Olympic movement.”
“We are all here today because we share a duty those innocent victims and to history to make sure the lessons of 1972 are never forgotten ... we are here to speak with one voice against terrorism,” he said.
Rogge held a surprise tribute in the athletes’ village on the Monday before the opening ceremony but that low-key event failed to satisfy the victims’ relatives.
In her speech, which won her a standing ovation, Spitzer accused the IOC of having priorities that did not allow it to heed the call for the tribute at the Olympic opening ceremony.
“Is the IOC only interested in power, money and politics (that) they have forgotten what they are supposed to promote: peace brotherhood and fair play?” she said.
Spitzer also said the refusal involved the victims’ nationality and religion.
“Shame on you International Olympic Committee because you have forsaken the 11 members of your Olympic family, you are discriminating against them only because they are Israelis and Jews.”
Obama sent a greeting to the gathering which was read by U.S. Ambassador to Britain, Louis Susman.
“While the United States supported a moment of silence in their honor, we welcome any effort to recall the terrible loss that was suffered in Munich and the lives of those who were lost,” Obama wrote.
British Prime Minister David Cameron who attended the ceremony at its start, said the events of Munich were “a sickening act of terrorism that betrayed everything the Olympic movement stands for and everything that we in Britain believe in.”
Spitzer said she was “overwhelmed” by the amount of international support the campaign for a commemoration and that the efforts would continue to gain the moment’s silence would continue.
“We will be back because until we hear the words you need to say because you owe it to them,” she said.
Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Daniel Magnowski